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Origin of the Universe (Art Book), Brainstorming

Mythological creation stories not only answer the question, “Where did we come from” but also “why are we here.” These stories are the foundation of cultural value systems. Today, we need a new story. We need a new value system.


Intellectual exploration


Infinite question


It’s been done before, I want to do it as an Art Book type thing so that the set-up of the exhibit becomes part of the exhibit.


I have mapped it out many times but I am not yet satisfied. I envision a box. You open the box and the lid becomes a 3-d resin painting with embedded lights that illustrates the creation of the universe. Then inside the box are numbered boxes. Box 1 contains cards that contain explicit instructions dictating the order of presentation so that setting up the display tells a story. The items themselves can be interpreted literally and symbolically. For instance, one item would be a sphere seemingly made of diverse materials. The cards instruct you to set it in a tray and light it on fire. The fire burns away a paper shell creating a display of colored flames symbolizing the concentration and creation of elements that form the planets. Inside the shell are the actual planets of our solar system that would then be removed and hung up in some kind of kinetic sculpture. Another box might contain a hydrogen manufacturing kit (which is fun to make) that would be used to create literal explosions or maybe the flames to burn the globe. (It is reasonably safe and easy to do. I’ve done it with students.) There could also be a jigsaw puzzle that comes together to form the base of the display and maps out the dispersal of elements throughout the universe. I also considered that the planets could be hung from a structural model of hydrogen and helium, the dominate elements in the sun. All of the elements of the project would come together as a kind of kit. The display would be set up by participants or maybe in some kind of performative way. I like the idea of creating engagement by allowing people to touch and manipulate the art.

I see the whole thing as a series with a clear beginning and end. The middle could contain lots of things.  The first piece would be the origin and or nature of the universe. The next might be the origin of life. It would go on and on answering questions until it reaches unanswerable questions and becomes a sort of obscure, highly symbolic representation of something I think of as “the infinite question.”

Despite a great deal of outlining, I am still not quite sure how to break down a project like this. I want to make sure I have something to present at the end of the semester but I am not at all sure how much I can do in one semester. Right now, I am focused on the resin-painting. If I just do it as resin with 3-d painting, that is within the realm of what I can do. If I add in the animated lights (which I feel it should have) then it becomes much more difficult and will take more of my time.

I am also unsure about the planets. I can make beautiful planets out of glass but I don’t have glass tools for that. I would need something that wouldn’t be damaged by fire. I don’t know what I could use other than glass. I guess I could make them out of cement. That could be interesting because I might be able to make them remain on fire after their shells burn away. In that case, I wouldn’t need to show the formation of our solar system. I could simply show that planets and stars were formed and eventually became the solar system. That could be an interesting visual… the burning planet… maybe I could expand on that idea by showing the formation of different types of planets.

The jigsaw puzzle should be fairly easy. I have made plenty of puzzles by hand. We have a laser cutter here. That makes it almost too-easy. I don’t even have to sit and cut all the pieces with a scroll saw and then sand them and polish them and make them perfect. The machine can cut them for me.


Problem: I need everything to fit together into boxes. I can’t do that if I don’t plan it effectively. For instance, the resin display and the jigsaw puzzle should be the same size since one becomes the backdrop and one becomes the stage for a presentation. Then the celestial bodies need to fit onto the display. It has to be big enough to hold everything without the use of fire doing any damage. Resin does not need to be melted! That means I can’t just work on everything as I feel like it. I need to make things in order based on what needs the most size flexibility. My first thought was to begin with the resin work but I am not so sure. It may be that the planets are the least flexible. I have to figure out how much space they need to be safe. I also have to figure how to arrange them so that they don’t dominate the entire display.


Big Bang – Resin painting with lights

Formation of Elements – Hydrogen harvesting

Element Dispersal – jigsaw puzzle

Formation of Celestial Bodies – burning spheres

Formation of the Solar System – Hanging the planets in a kinetic sculpture



The second set would be the origin of life. I have some very cool ideas about making cells. I could use heat from a burning planet to add water. Then use those gelatin capsules to create actual pills that dissolve to disperse the cells into the water. Maybe they could change colors and things like that to symbolize the different types of life. It could be some kind of lava lamp material that would slowly expand and contract in the environment, the many iterations of life before success. Then I could create dissectible models of the evolution of cells. The cells would then be building blocks that create the first organisms. I don’t know if I am capable of building that kind of structure. It sounds like something that would require 3-d design, but maybe someday. The cells could be Lego-like but maybe smaller so that they form solid shapes. Then it could go on to a new set that shows the evolution of life by creating a whole kit where you have to dig through the layers to show each age of the earth.